3 ways student success coaches help schools thrive
Student success coaches (SSCs) are young people, ages 17 to 25, who serve with City Year on teams as tutors, mentors and role models who help support students who attend systemically under-resourced schools. SSCs are recruited, trained and placed in classrooms to help provide holistic support—academic, social and emotional—by partnering with classroom teachers and offering one-on-one tutoring, small-group instruction, and skill building coaching. SSCs help to foster a sense of community and connection in the school, while supporting students’ sense of belonging, efficacy and confidence.
Some City Year’s student success coaches serve in community schools, which are public schools designed to service the whole neighborhood. According to the Coalition for Community Schools, these institutions act as “the hub of its neighborhood, uniting families, educators and community partners as an evidence-based strategy to promote equity and educational excellence for every child, and an approach that strengthens families and community.”
With the support of the LEGO Foundation, City Year has been able to elevate the work our SSCs do in community schools in New York City, highlighting key practices and real-life examples of how their presence in classrooms enhances the whole learning environment in a new resource, The Power of Student Success Coaches in Community Schools. While developed within the context of community schools, this work has ripples across the City Year network and can provide school leaders with a roadmap to implement a similar approach, even in schools that don’t meet the definition of “community school.”
If you’re interested in joining City Year and serving as student success coach for a year or are an educator interested in supporting your students’ learning and growth, we’ve highlighted three practices below to better understand how SSCs make a difference inside the classroom.
Student success coaches provide expanded and enriched learning opportunities.
Students thrive when a community of caring adults bolsters them. But many schools are stretched thin and lack capacity to offer students a full range of extracurricular and afterschool programs. SSCs are another asset and additional support that students, teachers and school administrators can count on when cultivating connection and belonging in school and helping students to explore their talents and interests.
SSCs contribute to this key practice through afterschool programing, which often speaks to the students’ and corps member’s interests. For example, City Year AmeriCorps member Ben Evanson (New York ’19) shared his love for engineering with elementary school students in East Harlem. Each week, Ben put together an engaging lesson plan so that students could have fun but also come away with a better understanding of math and science. Here’s Ben talking about his love for engineers and some of the creations he made with his students:
“Engineering is something I’m very passionate about, and I wanted to share with my students, so I started the Engineer’s Club,” says Ben. “The hover buster we built with plywood and a leaf blower donated from Home Depot was their favorite and really captivated their attention. I always made sure there was big, exciting or something that would keep them interested—or at least something that got my attention as a kid.”
Afterschool programs help students cast aside anxieties that may arise in a more formal classroom environment, often integrating play and exploratory learning experiences. This is backed by the National Afterschool Association, which finds that afterschool programs can play an integral role in helping students overcome these challenges through role-modeling excitement, making real-world connections and ensuring that the students participate in hands-on activities.
And if you like to learn more about the integral role of afterschool programs to City Year service, you can read more here:
Student success coaches help engage families, a key to student success.
Parents and primary caretakers are our students’ number-one cheerleaders and supporters. At City Year, we’re always trying to find new and innovative ways to connect with the people who love and care for our students the most.
Parent and caretaker engagement doesn’t mean just calling home every marking period to discuss a job well done or raise concerns. It means ensuring families are invited to school events and making sure parents and guardians feel appreciated and like their opinions on their child’s education matters.
City Year AmeriCorps member Bobby Gomez (San Antonio ’20) and the rest of the team at Lanier High School managed to foster connection by hosting “Coffee on the Curb” days, where staff and AmeriCorps members gave free coffee to parents dropping their kids off for school. The principal made himself available through occasional “Chat and Chews,” where community members could learn about what was happening in the school and teaching staff and administration frequently came together to provide meals for any student or family in need.
“One of the things I love most about Lanier is their sense of place in the community,” Bobby says. “For them, taking care of the students means taking care of the entire neighborhood and the people who live in it.”
Student success coaches help cultivate a culture of belonging, safety and care that benefits the entire school community.
Alongside classroom teachers and school administrators, many of our schools have counselors and social workers who work with students who benefit from additional support. A social worker usually strives to ensure that students feel emotionally and physically safe and receive specialized care when necessary.
As a student success coach, there may be times when you’re concerned about a student’s mental health and well-being—and you may not be qualified to address them. But as a part of a community of care, you can rely on the support of school counselors and social workers to get your students access to the services they need. Anthony Lawrence, an impact manager at City Year Kansas City, interviewed Eliza Stanford, a licensed professional counselor and trauma-sensitive clinician working in Kansas City schools, and they discussed how corps members can navigate this space with student care as the top priority.
“If you have concerns about the student harming themselves or others, you should absolutely seek to connect that student with professional services and elevate the issue immediately,” Elizabeth says. “Even if it’s something less urgent and simply a conversation that makes you uncomfortable because you don’t know what to say, please seek out the professionals in your school community. The last thing we want is for corps members to feel like they’re in a situation they’re not trained to handle.”
“If a student has confided in you about something but is hesitant about speaking to another adult, we can start by having that corps member bring that student into the office,” Elizabeth continues. “The goal here is to ensure that the student understands you’re not abandoning them or are no longer willing to listen. The student should feel safe with the new adult and that the corps member is supporting them in getting the help they need. We call it a “warm handoff.”
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